The Women’s March On Washington Has A Lesson For The March For Science

February 25, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Climate change, Disinformation, Enemies of Planet Earth, Global warming, Practical tips | Leave a comment
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Rikugien, a Japanese garden in Tokyo, Japan, photographed by Fg2 on March 29, 2005.

Rikugien, a Japanese garden in Tokyo, Japan, photographed by Fg2 on March 29, 2005.

Next April 22 will be Earth Day.

The March for Science will be on that day.

Scientists – and those who appreciate science – will be demonstrating to remind everyone of how indispensible science is to our understanding of how the world works, and to our ability to survive and thrive.

To survive and thrive we use tools: mental tools – concepts, knowledge (conclusions) and skills – and physical tools.

The demonstrators will be reminding us all that the relentless testing of all of our tools, using testable evidence, is the only way of arriving at conclusions and other tools that are reliable enough to build upon.

Well-tested conclusions and other tools are fruitful even when they are incomplete or approximate. Because tested tools have withstood at least some testing, they carry at least some information, so they contain clues as to improve on them.

From experience, we know that well-tested conclusions and well-tested other tools exist, and are better in the long run than unreliable conclusions and other tools.

A testable and well-tested assertion is worth of being called a fact. An unsupported assertion is not worthy of being called a fact. There is no such thing as an alternative fact. There can be alternative perceptions, but not alternative facts.

That is what the demonstrators desperately want to remind us of, because malignant people are trying to make us forget that hard-earned understanding, and if we do forget it, our future will be as was aptly described by Thomas Hobbes: nasty, brutish and short.

For the March for Science to be all that it can be, it must learn an important lesson from the Women’s March on Washington.

Photo by Mobilus In Mobili of the Women's March on Washington, 21 January 2017

Photo by Mobilus In Mobili of the Women’s March on Washington, 21 January 2017

Ellen McCarthy, Lavanya Ramanathan, Maura Judkis published in the Washington Post an informative account of that event.

But they mis-interpreted one feature of what happened there, and it is exactly that feature that the planners of the March for Science need to understand correctly.

The mis-interpretation occured in these lines in the article:

But the group gathered in Washington, which organizers said topped 500,000, wasn’t an unfettered love fest. As the program of speakers stretched into the third hour, many in the crowd, like penned race horses itching to run, began to chant: “Let us march!”
And resentment brewed as some marchers took off while speakers of color were still standing at the microphone.
“This whole thing is supposed to be about intersectional feminism, and they’re just walking out on speeches,” said Telfer Carpenter, 22, an equity studies major at the University of Toronto who had come in on an overnight bus. “I think the first people to leave were old white women. They left when a Muslim woman was speaking and when a Korean woman was speaking. A mark has been missed.”

I was there, and the crowd’s impatience had nothing to do with who was speaking or with what they were saying.

It had everything to do with it being “the third hour“.

At that point, we no longer cared or even noticed who was speaking. Most of us couldn’t see the stage, so we couldn’t see any ethnic or religious indicators of the speakers.

Most people had been standing since well before the program began: for more than three hours.

We had been happy to hear what the early speakers had said. But now we were saturated. We didn’t want to hear another thing, no matter how pertinent, no matter how interesting it would have been if we had heard it earlier.

That would have been true even if we had been seated and warm. But we were stiff and cold – and most important – the speeches had continued beyond our attention span.

Enthusiastic attendees morphed into disgruntled attendees.

Three hours was just too much. We needed to move. We wanted to march, since that would be how we would have our say. We wanted to shout at the White House, “Lock him up!”, as we so delightedly shouted once we started walking.

It is easy to see why the planners of the March made the mistake of exceeding our attention span.

The planners had wanted to enlist the participation and support of as many organizations as possible.

Each of those organizations wanted to publicize its cause and its views. It wanted time in the limelight for its spokesperson.

The error was in allotting too much time to each of so many speakers.

The organizers of the March for Science will likewise have enlisted many participating organizations.

The guiding principle for any such event should be to have at most an hour and a half of speeches, total.

If that means five minutes per speaker, that will be far better than what happened here. The need to make each statement brief will yield more memorable statements.

View of the Women's March on Washington from the roof of the Voice of America building in Washington, D.C. January 21, 2017 (B. Allen / VOA)

View of the Women’s March on Washington from the roof of the Voice of America building in Washington, D.C. January 21, 2017 (B. Allen / VOA)

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A Blogging Award

January 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Posted in Climate change, Global warming, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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WordPressVeryInspiringBloggerAward

I feel doubly honored to have been selected for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award, first, because being selected says that others find my blog to be interesting and useful, and second, because docreedy, who selected my blog, has a blog of very high quality, in which she provides vivid insight into a culture that has become important to us, but is difficult for us to understand except via personal experiences such as hers. So my double thanks to Dr. Reedy.  I highly recommend her blog, which goes well with the first blog in the list of nominated blogs below.

The  rules for accepting the Very Inspiring Blogger Award are to
Display the award logo.
Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
State 7 interesting things about yourself.
Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Here are seven interesting things about me:

1. Near the end of a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, my wife and I decided that we wanted to ride in a horse-drawn carriage.  Our carriage turned out to be the one that Lafayette had used in Williamsburg during one of his two celebratory visits to the US (1784 and 1824-1825).  Most of the interior was still original.  We admired the way that the windows could be raised and lowered.  We then drove home in our car.  The next morning, we discovered that we had fleas.  We like to think that we were bitten by the descendents of the fleas that had bitten Lafayette.  (By the way, the true story of how Lafayette managed to cross the ocean to help the American Revolution, despite the King’s opposition, would put most novels and movies to shame. )

The Marquis de Lafayette

The Marquis de Lafayette

2. When I was a baby, the landlord’s dog would get under my crib when I cried, and move her back up and down to rock me, until I stopped crying.

A Rough Collie.  Photo by sannse at the City of Birmingham Championship Dog Show, 30th August 2003.

A Rough Collie. Photo by sannse at the City of Birmingham Championship Dog Show, 30th August 2003.

3. My earliest memory was of the arrival of my newborn younger brother, when my mother returned from the hospital after giving birth.  I was a little over three years old, and was given a toy helicopter to distract me while so much attention was being showered on the new baby.  I somehow sensed that I was being deliberately distracted.  I looked at my new brother, and thought, “Oh, is that what all the fuss is about.”  If I had known how to say “hrummfff!” to myself, I would have done so.  (But he worked out well.)

4. We lived the the Rockaways, on Long Island.  From many places, you could see the ocean when you looked in one direction, and the bay when you looked in the opposite direction.  After one hurricane, the streets flooded.  My mother was standing on the porch, contemplating this novel sight, when she saw a neighbor swimming home after his commute.  (The streets had flooded while he was at work.)  A very polite man, on previous occasions he had always tipped his hat to her as he walked by.  This time, he paused in his swimming, tipped his hat, and then swam on.

Rockaway, Long Island, in Queens, in New York City, photgraphed by Jorfer on a senior trip on 22 May 2007.

Rockaway, Long Island, in Queens, in New York City, photgraphed by Jorfer on a senior trip on 22 May 2007.

5. In the first grade, we were sent home for lunch.  It was implicit that were were supposed to return to school afterwards, but no one had told me that explicitly.  I suspected that we were supposed to return, but decided not to until someone told me I had to.  Day after day I enjoyed the freedom of wandering  the streets after lunch, often convincing another kid to join me.  Eventually, as I expected would happen, I was scolded.  For my playing hooky – or for something similar – the school’s Principal, Mr. Ritter, said that he would spank me.  According to my parents (and I vaguely remember saying it), I told him that if he hit me, my parents would sue him.  He backed off.

6. We moved to Far Rockaway a couple of years later, and my elementary school became PS 39, the same school that Richard Feynman had attended long before me.  Hurricane Sandy probably destroyed that school building, and all of the houses I had lived in before going away to college.

7. Throughout elementary school and junior high, I was terrible at math, and hated it.  I liked English, history, science (which at that level had no math), and art.  I could perform the steps of long division, but only dimly glimpsed what the result meant, and didn’t care what it meant.  I was so bad at math that when I read that an astronomer had to be good at math, I sadly gave up my ambition to be one.  Naively, I decided to be a chemist instead.  Despite my mathematical incompetence, at the urging of a teacher I was sent to a high school that specialized in preparing students to go on for college majors in engineering.  I was so bad at elementary algebra, that during the first Parent-Teacher conference day the math teacher told my mother that I had to either improve dramatically or return to the local high school.  He gave her the names of some supplementary textbooks, and somehow she managed to obtain them.  I went through them, working all of the problems, but this time determined to become skilled at algebra.  Then I worked through the problem book for the New York State Regents exam for elementary algebra.  By then I was doing fairly well in algebra, but was afraid of having something thrown at me that I wasn’t ready for.  So I went through the problem book for intermediate algebra, and then the one for trigonometry.  I was beginning to hear the music in math – the counterpoint and multiplexing that could be discerned in each answer.  If an answer was ugly, it was usually wrong.  Working a problem had a kinesthetic aspect: it felt like dancing.  Mathematics had become intensely enjoyable, and I was now good at it.  Still in my freshman year, I then went through the problem book for advanced algebra.  It included an introduction to differential calculus: a huge number of calculations of derivatives, via inserting small increments and then taking a limit.  That had me really excited, because I had been talking to another student in my home room who also wanted to be a chemist, and he had told me that the kind of chemistry I liked was called ‘physics’.  I had gone to the school library to see whether that was so, had read de Broglie’s Revolution in Physics, and Einstein and Infeld’s Evolution of Physics, and saw that he was right.  Those books said that calculus was a main tool in physics, so working problems in calculus was sheer bliss.  I finally understood arithmetic, especially the significance of division, from doing algebra and from those increment+limit calculations in differential calculus.  I had also discovered that most mastery comes from being self-motivated and teaching yourself, with school viewed as just an adjunct.  Mathematics had become so enjoyable that I couldn’t stop doing it.  I acquired college books on calculus and worked the problems.  During my Junior year in high school, a neighbor, an electrical engineer, complained that he had been unable to work out a formula for the length of a single cycle of a sine wave, which he needed for his work.  By then I thought that if an integral could be performed, I could do it.  I wrestled with it for a while, then recognized that the difficulty was that this integral was of a special type called an elliptic integral, and gave him the answer in terms of a complete elliptic integral of the second kind.  I also began asking and trying to answer my own curiosity-driven questions about mathematics.  Ever since then, a major component of my life, and of who I am, has been self-driven research in mathematics, physics, and now also astrophysics.  The more you know about those subjects, the more fascinating they become.

Here are 15 other bloggers that I nominate for this award, and links to them:

1. http://hotmilkforbreakfast.wordpress.com/  Together, this and the blog that nominated me give eye opening insights into the daily life and views of ordinary Afghans, who thereby become far less puzzling, very human, and very diverse.

2. http://broadsideblog.wordpresscom/    Fresh insights into politics, into living and loving, and into earning a living.

3. http://lifewithbump.wordpress.com/    The bump refers to a ‘baby bump’, but the topics are diverse, and the commentary is heartfelt.

4. http://illbeoutinaminute.com/        Wildly creative and imaginative, perceptive and humorous, and very frank looks at human nature.

5. http://thefurfiles.com/            Wonderfully humorous, perceptive, and frank insights into what really goes on inside our heads.

6. http://koshersamurai.wordpress.com/    You never know what topic will come up next, but it is always interesting.

7. http://jameswight.wordpress.com/    Remarkable insights into the environmental tug of war in Australia.  Lessons for everywhere.

8. http://sustainableutah.wordpress.com/    Dramatic photos and comments on environmental damage in a beautiful environment.

9. http://thepoliticalidealist.com/        An up-close, careful analysis of politics and education in the UK.  Instructive for anyone.

10. http://bierstadt54.wordpress.com/    Novel insights, mostly on international politics, but sometimes on changes in culture and technology.

11. http://everydayambassador.org/    Postings by diverse people who want to help others.  Glimpses of worlds you otherwise would not see.

12. http://icelandpenny.wordpress.com/    A sharp-eyed, appreciative walking observer of Toronto, who adds it to your neighborhood.

13. http://hikingphoto.com/        Spectacular photography, mostly of dramatic scenery, but some of water drops and smoke, and photography tips.

14. http://shareabitoflove.com/        Striking close-up photography.  The rarely noticed beauty nearby.

15. http://scienceornot.net/    How to tell whether a widely repeated claim is just an urban legend.  A WordPress site, despite the URL.

Meningitis, Mortgages, Hurricane Sandy, and Romney

November 3, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Climate change, Fairness, Global warming, Presidential election | Leave a comment
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Hurricane Sandy: Flooded Avenue C at East 6th Street in Manhattan's East Village neighborhood of Loisaida, moments before the Con Edison power substation on 14th Street and Avenue C blew up.  30 October 2012.  Photographed by David Shankbone.

Hurricane Sandy: Flooded Avenue C at East 6th Street in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood of Loisaida, moments before the Con Edison power substation on 14th Street and Avenue C blew up. 30 October 2012. Photographed by David Shankbone.

__________________________________________________________________

A valuable analysis by Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post points out that Willard Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are opposed to Federal disaster relief by FEMA, and to regulation and to inspections by the Federal government.  They want to transfer these functions to the states, or – whenever possible – to the private sector.

I urge you to read Eugene Robinson’s article.  It makes many important points that I will not repeat here.  I will only add a few comments.

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Patient with menigitiis and menigism (neck stiffness), original caption: Patient violently ill with acute epidemic meningitis. Markedly stuporous and delirious; head retracted and very stiff, 1913, Source: Sophian, Abraham: Epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis (1913), St. Louis, C.V Mosby (Scan from archive.org). Author L.A. Marty, M.D, Kansas City.

Patient with menigitiis and menigism (neck stiffness), original caption: Patient violently ill with acute epidemic meningitis. Markedly stuporous and delirious; head retracted and very stiff, 1913, Source: Sophian, Abraham: Epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis (1913), St. Louis, C.V Mosby (Scan from archive.org).
Author L.A. Marty, M.D, Kansas City.

Charlotte Cleverley-Bisman with meningococcal disease, June 2004, Source: http://www.babycharlotte.co.nz/photos6-12mths.html, Author: Pam Cleverley, Perry Bisman, http://babycharlotte.co.nz

Charlotte Cleverley-Bisman with meningococcal disease, June 2004, Source: http://www.babycharlotte.co.nz/photos6-12mths.html, Author: Pam Cleverley, Perry Bisman, http://babycharlotte.co.nz

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The meningitis outbreak spans more than once state.  The same is true of most problems with contaminated foods, contaminated drugs, outbreaks of disease, natural disasters, oil spills, abuses by banks or other financial companies, etc.

The individual states do not have the funds or the expertise or the scope to collate the data to discover that there is a new problem, to figure out its nature and source, and to fight the problem.  If they tried to do those things, having fifty times as many agencies trying to do what the Federal agencies now do would represent a tremedous duplication of effort – a huge waste of funds.  Even with that, the states would fall short of what FEMA, the CDC, the FDA and the Department of Agriculture can presently do.  At present, the state agencies complement what the Federal agencies do, and they benefit from the information provided to them by the Federal agencies.  As for the costs, we all benefit from the economies of scale provided by the Federal agencies.

If a problem is caused by a farm in Texas or a company in Massachussetts, other states have no authority to force the responsible party to do anything quick and dramatic.  Only the Federal government has the Constitutional authority to due that, via the ‘commerce clause’.

As for the private sector, almost every recent man-made disaster – meningitis, contaminated food, oil spills, the financial meltdown caused by the granting and selling of risky mortgages – shows that industries cannot monitor themselves.  The conflict of interest is too strong.

Willard Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would destroy most of the protections we now have, because they just do not understand, and they do not want to understand.  Would you really want to lose FEMA, or the CDC?

Hurricane Sandy: The FDR Drive flooded next to the East Village neighborhoon in Manhattan.  30 October 2012.  Photographer: David Shankbone.

Hurricane Sandy: The FDR Drive flooded next to the East Village neighborhood in Manhattan. 30 October 2012. Photographer: David Shankbone.

Half million dollar house in Salinas, California under foreclosure. 2008-02-13, photographed by Brendel at en.wikipedia.org .

Half million dollar house in Salinas, California under foreclosure. 2008-02-13, photographed by Brendel at en.wikipedia.org .

Halloween Candy

October 8, 2012 at 10:32 am | Posted in Climate change, Disinformation, Dysfunctional Politics, Fairness, Global warming | Leave a comment
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Carved pumpkins in Kobe, Japan, photographed by 663highland

Carved pumpkins in Kobe, Japan, photographed by 663highland

Now is the season when we stock up on candy to give out to the trick-or-treaters who will come to our door on Halloween.

Trick or treat, in Sweden, photographed 31 October 2005  by ToyahAnette B

Trick or treat, in Sweden, photographed 31 October 2005 by ToyahAnette B

We will not be buying Snickers nor M&Ms nor Milky Way bars, nor anything else made by Mars.  Actually, we won’t be buying Reese’s Cups either, nor any candy made by Cadbury, Kraft, Nestle, or Hershey.

This is not just because those candies taste so blah.

And it is not just because the candies in Halloween bulk packs sold by these companies keep becoming smaller.

It is because of the politics of these companies.  They sell many billions of dollars of candy each year, about 40% of it at Halloween.  They use their profits to fund political positions that increase the concentration of wealth (a significant cause of our present economic problems), cause economic instability by opposing reasonable regulation, damage the environment (both immediately, and by delaying action on climate change), handicap voting and other rights of social minorities, and retard the public’s understanding of science.

Politically, Mars stands out, so let’s talk about that company.

According to Wikipedia, both the family and the company are extremely secretive.  In keeping with that, most – but not all – of the family’s and the company’s political activity is sneaky.

The Mars brothers quietly throw huge amounts of money at political causes that damage America.  They funnel most of their political contributions through PACs, so that their contributions will stay off the public’s radar.  They support the greedniks at the deceptively-named US Chamber of Commerce.  (Chamber of Greed would be more accurate.)

They are obsessed with ending the Estate Tax, a tax that affects only a tiny fraction of families – families such as theirs.

So we have been stocking up on Halloween candy at organic markets and similar stores.  The candy tastes better, is healthier for the kids, and its purchase does not advance political evil.

Trick-or-treating at the first house.  Photograph 31 October 2007 by Belinda Hankins Miller.

Trick-or-treating at the first house. Photograph 31 October 2007 by Belinda Hankins Miller.

Fungus Among Us

August 23, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Posted in Climate change, Dysfunctional Politics, Global warming | 2 Comments
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Mold overwhelming tomatoes

Mold overwhelming tomatoes. Photo by Schimmel (Netherlands), obtained via Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mold).

In a previous post, I mentioned that global warming is likely to cause fungal diseases to become a major problem at non-tropical latitudes, where they have hitherto been only a minor problem.  This post will explain why.

Early in 2011 I attended a talk by Arturo Casadevall, who is the Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in Bronx, NY.  (His talk was unrelated to my work, and was given in a city far from New York.)

Cryptococcus neoformans

Cryptococcus neoformans, photomicrograph, provided to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptococcus_neoformans) by Dr. Leanor Haley of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The talk focused on cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus that presently causes over 600,000 human deaths per year.  But the talk also described in general how biological evolution and the typical temperature in a region jointly affect which organisms in that region are vulnerable to infection by many different types of fungi.

The most important factor is whether an animal’s internal temperature is or is not much warmer than the typical outdoors temperature.

Must species of fungi will evolve to thrive at the typical outdoors temperature.

That means that they will not thrive – and usually cannot survive – inside the body of an animal whose internal temperature is much warmer than is typical outdoors.

Toe nail fungus can grow under a human toe nail, but it cannot invade the interior of a human body, because we are warm-blooded, and our insides are too warm for the fungus to survive inside us.

The same is true of athlete’s foot.

Many colonies of bats in caves have been killed recently by white nose syndrome, which is caused by a fungus.  The bats are immune to the white nose fungus during the summer, when the bats are active, and the insides of their bodies are warm.  But infection by the white nose fungus can sweep a colony during the winter, when the bats hibernate, and the insides of their bodies are cool.

Little Brown Bat with White Nose Syndrome (Wikipedia)

Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome in Greeley Mine, Vermont, March 26, 2009. Wikipedia.

Cold-blooded animals are much more vulnerable to internal infections by fungi.  One species of frog has recently become extinct due to fungal infection.  Insects are especially vulnerable.  A scratch on an insect’s body is very likely to lead to a fatal fungal infection.

Grasshoppers Killed By Beauveria Fungus

Grasshoppers killed by Beuveria fungus
Stefan Jaronski, via Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fungus

Those statements apply today, at non-tropical latitudes.

But as the typical outside temperature rises at those latitudes, the fungi will evolve, and will become adapted to the higher temperatures.  People who live at those latitudes – and all other warm blooded animals who live there – will then become more vulnerable to internal infection by fungi.

That will happen without any planning or effort on the part of the fungi.  Every new generation of a particular species of fungus will a have a few individual new colonies which result from spores or buds which, due to random errors when the parent’s genetic code was copied while generating the spores or buds, would thrive in a warmer environment than would be optimal for the parent colony.  There will also be a few new colonies which would thrive in a cooler environment than would be optimal for the parent colony.  If the environment has warmed, then – on average – more of the warm-happy colonies will thrive and produce offspring.  Generation to generation, in small jerky steps, the bell-shaped curve of the temperatures that are optimal for that species will  jerk slightly toward higher temperatures more often than it jerks slightly toward lower temperatures.  Without knowing it, that species of fungus will adapt to a warmer environment.

By the way, this process – biological evolution – is so effective that software engineers now mimic it on computers, to generate computer algorithms that can function in complicated environments, and in changing environments.  Examples are Genetic Programming, artificial neural nets, and cellular automata.

How fungal infection will be affected by global warming is analyzed in more detail in two articles (references 2 and 3) that are cited in the section “Advantages and disadvantages of an endothermic metabolism” in an article in Wikipedia.

The pain to infected individuals and the economic cost of the increased fungal infection of humans, livestock, and wild animals should be included when weighing the near-term and long-term net costs of delaying action on climate change.

The Green Parties of Australia and the US

August 21, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Posted in Climate change, Conceited, Global warming, Presidential election | 6 Comments
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Several posts (Jill Stein, Roseanne Barr, and the Green Party, Mr Belly Button and the Green Party) in this blog have pointed out the negative electoral effect of the Green Party, and its vagueness, impracticality and grandiose quality.  The US Green Party seems to be a self-indulgent hobby.  Its only effect on US politics so far has been to help Republicans win elections.  Of course, this unintended effect blocks the achievement of all of the goals of the Green Party, and of those who vote for its candidates.

But these criticisms apply only to the US Green Party.  Blogging on WordPress has acquainted me with the Australian Green Party.  It seems to be entirely different from the US Green Party.  I came to that view by following James Wight’s posts, in particular

http://jameswight.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/renewable-energy-target-at-risk/
http://jameswight.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/australia-admits-renewables-cheap/
http://jameswight.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/new-coal-export-terminal-must-not-proceed/

Wight’s blog shows that the Australian Green Party, unlike the US Green Party, does the hard work of crafting detailed policies and justifies them with quantitative data and analyses.  Thus they really contribute something substantive and usable to discussions of policy, and their ideas can be cited and used even by the elected members of other parties, as well as by the Green Party itself.  Unlike the US Green Party, the Australian Green Party is constructive.

Australia’s Green Party shows how the US Green Party could change itself into something beneficial, and no longer inimical to its own stated objectives:
– It could propose detailed, quantitative proposed legislation and regulatory action.  This should be detailed enough to be used as draft legislation, and should be backed by quantitative data and assessments of impact.
– It could avoid siphoning votes away from the Democratic Party.

Republicans versus Reepos

August 17, 2012 at 8:06 am | Posted in Climate change, Disinformation, Dysfunctional Politics, Enemies of Freedom, Enemies of Planet Earth, Fairness, Global warming | 1 Comment
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I used to vote mostly for Republicans.

I contributed to the campaign of our local Representative, a thoughtful Republican who considered each issue on its merits, was pragmatic rather than ideological, and did not toe any party line.

The 1994 Contract With America delighted me.  (Does anyone remember it?)

But then the Republican Party zombified itself.  The change became noticeable in 1994.

Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert, and their ilk elevated ideology and party loyalty over pragmatic choices.  They sneered at compromise and bi-partisanship, as if they had a monopoly on truth.  Their policy was to stay on message, never revising their positions, regardless of the facts.  Thus they became rationalizers for what would benefit the rich, and purveyors of disinformation.

They ignored the data on climate change.  They saw no need to protect the public against unsafe food, or unscrupulous financiers.  They forgot the great economic lesson of the 20th Century: that an economy can grow stably and generate abundant jobs only when income is widely distributed, so that the many have the means to buy.  They systematically sought to dismantle labor unions.

They became ethically and politically repulsive.  They were no longer Republicans.  They had become Reepos.

The Grand Old Party became instead the Greedy Old Pricks.

Perhaps it would be more polite to replace GOP by POG, for Party of Greed.

The GOP complains about class warfare, but the only class warfare right now is that waged by the Reepos against everyone else.

I grudgingly realized that however much I liked the work done by my local Representative, as long as my Representative was a Republican, that person would have to vote for a dishonorable Speaker of the House.

It is even worse now.

After President Obama’s election, the leading Republicans in the Senate and House said out loud that they would do everything possible to make Obama a one-term President.  They would vote against anything that Obama and other Democrats proposed, regardless of its merits.  In other words, party took priority over patriotism.  For the sake of attacking President Obama, they opposed the very features of his health care plan that he had learned from them.  The elected Republicans became the Party of No, the party of obstruction, the party of no compromise.

Opposition to even the possibility of compromise is un-American, because it is contrary to the goal of an open society, which is the most fundamental principle of the original United States.  An open society was the goal because of its greatest strength, which is the self-correcting ability it derives from give and take, loyal dissent, and compromise, rather than winner-take-all.

The Republican party has lost its previous understanding that a large and growing middle class was essential, both economically and for political stability, that robber barons are bad, that capitalism has to be regulated for its own good, and that – as the Founders so clearly understood – essential functions that benefit all must be funded by all, via the government, and therefore that government and taxes are indispensible.

What the Republican Party has become fulfills George Washington’s worst fears about what partisanship would do to the country.  In his Farewell Address  (December 19, 1796) Washington said that partisanship “serves always to distract the Public Councils and enfeeble the Public administration. It agitates the Community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against the other, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.”  That accurately describes us, today.  (As for the last phrase in that quote, think of the right wing demogogues on TV, and how their message affects racial purists and the unstable.)

I recently saw a bumper sticker that said, “Not a Republican”.  But the old Republicans were honorable and contributed beneficially to the civic dialog.  “Not A Reepo” would have more accurately represented the thought underlying the bumper sticker.

Should the Democrats Talk About Climate Change?

August 16, 2012 at 9:22 am | Posted in Climate change, Disinformation, Global warming | 1 Comment
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Climate change has long been a divisive issue.  For that reason the Democratic Party has shied away from talking about it before the election.

But this year has been the tipping point for public opinion about climate change.

Drought, fires, and record temperatures this past summer have convinced many who previously doubted global warming.  (Although global warming does not account for all of the present drought, it does contribute to it, and will contribute more importantly to future droughts.  Here is a concise summary of the relative contributions to drought from natural cycles and from human-induced warming.)

The reports of ice melting and the margins of glaciers disintegrating in both the Arctic and the Antarctic have added to the change of heart. The steady drum beat of dramatic changes has cumulatively built up a convincing mass of evidence.

There are probably few farmers in the midwest and southwest who still do not believe in global warming.

The drought is going to push up the price of food.  The melting of the permafrost in formerly cold regions will force hugely expensive replacements of buildings and roads.  There will also be an enormous human and medical cost from fungal  infections, as I’ll discuss in a later post.  It is now clear that the cost of not reducing global warming will eventually dwarf the cost of reducing it.

By the way, what do the Pee Party and Paul Ryan think about the Federal role in drought relief? If they are for it, how do they expect the government to pay for it?

That brings us back to the question in the title of this post.

In the pre-election arguments, the Democrats should point out that, of the two parties, only they are willing to do something about global warming.

If Republicans are elected,
– action will be further delayed
– the problem will be much harder when we finally get around to dealing with it
– the impact on you, your children and your grandchildren will be much more severe.

If Democrats are elected,
– action starts right away
– the problem will not be as hard or as costly
– the impact on you and yours and on the economy will be less severe.

Al Gore was right.  Global warming is an inconvenient truth.  But we cannot avoid having to deal with it eventually.

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